Fear the Worst, published by Linwood Barclay in 2009, is a well written mystery/thriller based on two popular themes. One much-loved type of story features an every man who rises to the occasion when things get tough and performs as well as a professional detective. Tim Blake is such an every man, someone who is perfectly suited to the life he used to have, namely making a modest living selling cars. His comfortable life begins to unravel when his wife decides that if he’s good at selling cars, he can just as well run a dealership or several and make more money.
This reasonable sounding but unfortunately flawed idea eventually leads to failure and divorce, providing the introduction to the second popular theme explored in this book, namely, a series of relatively innocuous actions leading to catastrophe. Only in this variation it’s not even anything that Tim or his now ex-wife do that puts their lives in danger, but mistakes made by two of their teenage daughter’s friends. One of them is a nice boy who’s good with computers and is tempted to make some easy money to finance a new laptop. The second is a girl who has been raised by a negligent, alcoholic mother and would really like to have a dad.
There is also a third theme, which I suspect is less a useful fictional device than an actual fact of life. I’m talking about the almost obligatory part of any murder mystery where the police suspect the first person they see. I find this plausible because of my belief in the law of averages, in the sense that just as naturally most people are average, members of any given profession tend toward the average. In the case of police detectives, someone of average dedication and talent will find it easier to suggest some sort of motive to fit a person who’s at hand than to start from zero and discover motive, suspects, and opportunity.
If I ever stumble across a body, I’ll be seriously worried.
p.s. From Wednesday, September 14 through Sunday, September 18, the Kindle version of The Wish to Kill, the first Alex Kértesz mystery will be free on Amazon. This is the book that introduces the Hungarian-born Israeli scientist and presents his first challenge to solve a murder, if it is a murder.